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IATA: Industry on Track To Triple SAF Output in 2024
June 5, 2024
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  • The International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced this week that its prediction of a tripling of worldwide sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) production in 2024 is on track, but noted several policy measures that governments could take to accelerate SAF usage. This year, global production of unblended SAF is expected to reach nearly 400 million gallons, an amount that equates to just 0.5% of total jet fuel demand.

    “SAF will provide about 65% of the mitigation needed for airlines to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050,” explained IATA director general Willie Walsh, adding he is encouraged about the expected tripling of SAF output from 2023. “We still have a long way to go, but the direction of exponential increases is starting to come into focus.”

    The organization noted that more than 140 renewable fuel projects with the capacity to produce SAF are expected to be operational by 2030. If they reach their expected output rates, renewable fuel capacity could total nearly 13.5 billion gallons by that date, and possibly more, as demand will dictate the amount of investment in renewable fuel refineries and technology. With a three- to five-year time lag from planning and funding to operation of a new refinery, those expectations could skew upwards in that time horizon.

    “The interest in SAF is growing and there is plenty of potential,” added Walsh, “but the concrete plans that we have seen so far are far from sufficient. Governments have to set clear expectations for aviation to achieve a 5% CO2 emissions reduction through SAF 2030 and to be net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.” To accomplish that they need to implement policies to ensure that SAF will be available in the necessary quantities, he said.

    With 80 percent of all SAF produced over the next half-decade expected to come via the HEFA production pathway using feedstocks such as used cooking oil, animal fats, and greases, IATA notes that accelerating other pathways using feedstocks, such as agricultural and forestry residue, will expand the potential for SAF production.

    Through co-processing, existing petroleum refineries can be used to co-process up to 5% of approved renewable feedstocks alongside the conventional crude oil content. The association believes this solution can be implemented quickly but would require policies to facilitate consistent life-cycle carbon reduction assessments.

    Lastly, most existing renewable fuel facilities were developed for diesel production. And as road transport transitions to electrification, policies should be established to incentivize their shift to SAF production, as well as signal strong government support and increase industry investment.

    According to a recent IATA survey, an overwhelming majority of air travelers agreed that governments should provide incentives for airlines to use SAF and that oil companies should prioritize its production.